The Student
‘Beauty is only skin deep’: celebrating our skin
by Natalie Alliston, 4/10/19

Regardless of where you are in the world, advertisers, influencers and brands refuse to show imperfections in skin. Slight ‘imperfections’ such as acne, acne scars and freckles are airbrushed away, leaving behind unnaturally flawless faces, radiating light from within. In an era where we are pushing for diversity in body and race in models, skin has been left behind, leaving us assaulted with images of flawless, glowing, unnaturally airbrushed skin, perpetuating the beauty standard of clear skin.

In 2019, I want more than my body and race celebrated in beauty advertisements and campaigns; I want to see my galaxy dotted skin celebrated by models, not as a before photo by skin product companies. The sad reality remains that the fight for transparency and inclusivity in the beauty industry is far from over.

The contrast between real life and the airbrushed world of advertisements and the rising commercialism of Instagram is stark. In real life, where the scars, vitiligo, acne and other ‘imperfections’ add to the character of friends and loved ones, the world of beauty, fashion and Instagram conceals and hides such imperfections as dirty secrets. Why is gorgeous, natural skin still such a taboo?

With around 95% of people aged 11 – 30 experiencing acne, as reported by the NHS this year,  why can’t our models reflect this? Everyone is beautiful and deserves to not only feel beautiful but also see themselves reflected in our societal standards of beauty.

Thankfully, there is a skin positivity movement, and brands are catching on. Dove has dipped their toes in; using models with skin conditions such as dry skin in their beauty campaigns. Winnie Harlow, a black model with vitiligo has been booked and featured in many prominent beauty campaigns and magazines. Furthermore, in 2018 Amy Deanna, a Texan model, was the first CoverGirl with vitiligo. Freckles were the big makeup trend of 2017/2018, pushing freckles into the limelight, where they have and continue to be celebrated in models.

However, this still suggests that such skin imperfections can only be a trend when applied with a makeup brush. But nothing compares to the leaps and bounds indie brand Blume has done; using models with real acne and acne scars and leaving them in the final edit to advertise their products.

Despite these efforts, the movement has not reached the high street or Instagram yet, and unfortunately, we are complicit in this. With unnaturally clear skin as a beauty standard we all want to conform to, we conceal and cover our acne, stretch marks and scars, using makeup or beauty apps to filter them out. The act of hiding our own natural skin, making it easy for brands to argue that clear skinned models are ‘aspirational’ and using them in campaigns, messing with our perceptions of beauty and self-esteem. For every unfiltered post, celebrating wrinkles, acne scars and more, there are hundreds and thousands of airbrushed photos around us, pushing for the opposite. But we can change this.

Beauty starts with us and we can demand, support and push for natural skin to be shown on models and in our feeds. Instead of conforming to standards of beauty imposed on us, we can force companies to conform to our standards of beauty. Unfortunately, beauty taken as being skin deep, means that skin imperfections have been taken as flaws to one’s beauty rather than what makes us uniquely beautiful. But for every airbrushed model I see, I can still look around and see the diversity in skin around me.

Image: Pexels via Pixabay